Sunday, March 30, 2014

Guided Math Made Easy: Practice Path

We are almost to the end of of my Guided Math Made Easy series!

Practice Path is the last of my 4 stations and it's my favorite!  This is the station that gets totally blown out of control when it comes to management and set up.  To me, this is where I truly make Guided Math easy!

When students are working on Practice Path, they are working on math station games.  I have seen people make monthly station kits that give you 5 or 6 activities per week and I LOVED that idea.  I even bought one or two but I never ended up using them because of the amount of prep work and storage involved.  I would be prepping 20-24 stations per week for my 4 groups who are all at different levels.  That's 80-96 stations to print, cut, laminate, re-cut, and find homes for each month.  I don't have space in my room to store 800-960 math station games.  Not to mention the cost to print everything in color on card stock plus laminating pouches and storage containers.  Obviously, if you have 1 grade level, this is much more manageable for you!  Please don't be offended if you are someone who has made these!! I think it is a genius idea and I so wished it would work for me!

Since this is guided math made easy, I tried to keep things as simple as possible for myself, while still keeping it fun and fresh for my students.  My students all love my dice activities in my sub tubs so I decided dice are a must for these stations.  I wanted to mix it up and add playing cards as well.  So I set to work making activities that my students can do using those 2 items.

I bought both of these items on Amazon.  A set of 12 playing cards was $12 and the dice were about $4.  I love using these foam dice because they are colorful and they make no noise when the students use them.  Each group you see can get a bucket or a drawer in a 3 drawer cart.  Here is a sample of a station I put in their drawers:
The activities allow the students to choose whether they want to use dice or cards.  Each activity is one full page like the one above.  There are no small pieces to cut out...just print and laminate!  Most of the page is black and white to save on ink but the titles and a few graphics are in color (I did not make black and white versions at this time but you can certainly print them in black and white and on colored paper).  I've made about 12 different themes to keep everything looking fresh throughout the year.

These games are the foundation of Practice Path.  Once you teach the games, they pretty much stay the same all year with very little prep on your part.  As you see additional games on Pinterest and Teacher's Notebook or Teachers Pay Teachers, add them to the students baskets!  But if you are having a rough week/month, there is no need to add more games!  If you have a sub, the students are left wondering how to play the new activity in their baskets...they always have activities they know how to use.

The activities are open ended because the students can just keep making their own problems.  This means that there is no "I'm done!" because there is no end point.

Set it up:
You will need decks of cards, dice, wet/dry erase markers, and containers. And the games!
Print and laminate the games.
I store my decks of cards in these snack containers from the dollar store (2 for $1).  Number the containers!
Next, I had my aides (you could use parent volunteers) number the back of each card in the deck.  I made a deck for each student so I know who has kept their cards neat and who hasn't.  You could make a deck or two for each group.
While numbering the cards, we changed the queens to zeros and made the aces ones.
Then I just through everything in a few buckets (although, now the cards are in their drawers).
And the games go in the drawers.  Dice and card buckets are on top.  I use Martha Stewart whiteboard labels for the drawers so I can change their groups easily.  I wiped off some of the names before taking the picture.

Organize it:
I place my stations in 1 gallon Ziploc bags.  I have a bag per theme/month.  The bags get tossed in my monthly boxes.  When a new month rolls around, I simple gather all the old sheets, put them in a bag and back into the monthly box.  The new games get pulled out and tossed in drawers.  It seriously can't be easier!
For non-monthly games, I store those in bags or envelopes in my cabinet according to concept.

Using it:
The students can choose any activity from their drawer/basket.  It's that simple!  As with the Computer Cabin station, Practice Path has a no-warning system.  The students are explicitly taught that they are to work together to play the games.  If they are fighting, yelling, and not working on math, they are given a worksheet from "The Binder" and they must sit at their seat and complete it.  If they do not clean up their stations properly, the next time they also get a worksheet from the binder.
I get the worksheets from themathworksheetsite.com.  

I love the simplicity of my guided math set up!  I was able to get the basics of each station up and running quickly.  After a few weeks, everything was running smoothly and I felt like I had the time and energy to make and add in some more games to the math drawers.  On the other hand, March was a crazy month and I didn't have time to include any additional activities.  My class didn't even notice because they still had a bunch of activities in their drawers that they know how to use.  I didn't feel bad because they were still practicing the skills they need to practice the most!

If interested, you can grab my games here or here.

I hope you found some part of this series helpful!  Is there anything that you do differently that you love?

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